Coca Cola – Global Marketing Communications

The Coca-Cola brand has been ranked by Interbrand as the world’s most valuable at $77,839 million.  But what has lead to the creation of such a strong brand?

It would be next to impossible to name one reason for this; however, as suggested by Interbrand, the Coca-Cola corporation has managed to consistently strike a balance between leveraging the traditional values associated with the drink and supporting this with innovative marketing campaigns.

Heinz has also grown its brand through a very similar method: strong heritage, augmented by exciting campaigns and new products.

The latest innovation from Coca-Cola is the ‘Share a Coke’ campaign that has recently launched in the United Kingdom (U.K.). The said campaign entails bottles and cans being printed with customer names in place of the traditional Coca-Cola logo.  The aim of this is to primarily to engage consumers in the brand, particularly through social media.

Customisable Coke Can

Regarding social media, consumers are encouraged to share their bottles digitally on Twitter using the hastag ‘ShareACoke’ or through the ‘Share a Coke’ Facebook app.  The latter allows consumers to create their own digital bottle and share it with friends (see below).  Furthermore, kiosks, in town centres and shopping malls, will be created to allow consumers to create their own custom cans or bottles, in the case that their name is not one of the one hundred and fifty being mass-produced.


While the same programme has already been a success in Australia and New Zealand, will simple a ‘copy and paste’ of the campaign work for the U.K. market?  I think for the most part, it will.  However, despite  the below video giving the impression of an unqualified success there is not such thing as a perfect campaign…

Some marketers (see comments section) have criticised the campaign for simply being ‘lame’, while others – more constructively – allude to the idea being too novel.  As Coca-Cola Great Britain managing director, Jon Woods, identifies, there is an inherent risk of replacing the brand name.  According to Kotler’s model of a ‘product’, a given product is composed of not just the tangible item that is purchased, but also intangible benefits, such as branding.

Therefore, for this campaign to be a success, the increase in consumer engagement – generated by featuring a name on the product – needs to off-set the decrease in brand-derived benefits – lost via the removal of the ‘Coca-Cola’ logo.

Hence, given the power of a brand, particularly one of this statue, to influence consumer consumer behaviour this truly is a risky decision.

Additionally, I believe that the campaign’s call-to-action is rather weak.  Namely, it is a bit ambiguous whether you are supposed to buy a drink for yourself – with your own name on it – or a drink for a friend – with their name on it.

On this point, there may be a missed opportunity here to try and promote non-digital sharing.  Perhaps there could have been a multi-buy offer to support the campaign?  Such an offer might have re-enforced the encouragement to buy a drink for friends, rather than purely rely on the novelty of the campaign.

One last piece of criticism I have is regarding Jon Woods’ claim that ‘no other brand has gone to this level of personalisation’.  In fact, as you can read here, Starbucks has already used a very similar tactic on a global scale.

Share a Coke Facebook App

I think, simply, the question boils down to: ‘Do people care about having a name on a product?’.  In New Zealand and Australia this was a resounding ‘Yes’. As these markets are similar, the campaign will probably be replicated successful in the U.K.; consumers are starting to share their drinks over Twitter.

There is one final issue I will briefly touch upon.  Namely, will more and more companies start replicating national campaigns from one region into another?  To an extent this might be seen as a cost-effective way to ‘think globally, act locally’ and customise global campaigns more efficiently.

What do you think: will the campaign work and  will more corporations start to replicate national campaigns in several regions?

© Joshua Blatchford, author of Manifested Marketing, 05/05/2013

Rockstar Energy Drinks – Product Line Filling

AG Barr – the parent company behind drinks such as Irn Bru, Tizer and Rockstar energy drinks – has recently announced the launch of ‘Rockstar Pink’.  This is supposed to be the first energy drink on the market that specifically targets female consumers.  They have segmented this market as the health-conscious  female who requires an energy kick; hence, the product contains only 10 calories, zero sugar and  smaller can size.  It also comes with a straw, according to the firm’s website, that means girls’ lipstick will not get smudged.  This form of market penetration is known as ‘product line filling’, where the depth of their product portfolio is increased by offering consumers greater variety.  Although AG Barr plans to use extreme sports sponsor ship and sampling at sports events, I am pessimistic that the drink will be a success.

Albeit they have identified an untapped niche in the market,  I believe they are still being too broad in their targeting.  They are attempting to target the product for sports and for nightlife usage – occasional segmentation should focus on one occasion and one occasion only, such as Coca-Cola’s recent repositioning.  The risk is that by attempting to appeal as both a sports product and for leisure use, Rockstar Pink becomes positioned by consumers as unsuitable for neither occasion.  If you look at the width of Lucozade’s product range, which has had a far greater market dominance, you can see the  differentiation between Lucozade ‘Original’ and ‘Sport’.  I feel a much more appropriate strategy would be to focus purely on recreational usage and compete with mixed-drinks in nightclubs by positioning the product as a healthier alternative to vodka and Red Bull/Coke.

Another potential pit-fall, I believe, could be the packaging of the product.  While this is seemingly straight-forward: take an ordinary can, make it smaller and then make it pink, it is integral to competing with other products at the point-of-purchase and portraying the benefits of the product.  On the one hand, the pink colouring makes the product stand-out.  But does it really reflect the core purpose of the drink?  It does not look healthy at all – the intense colour is synonymous ‘artificial colouring’.  In contrast, the sugar-free version of  ‘Rockstar Original’, below, looks much more healthier and cleaner.  All the pink colouring does is show who the company intends to sell to – this eliminates any male consumers, who may also be health-conscious.

However, I guess the included straw does have at least one benefit to females wearing lipstick.  The problem?  Avoiding lipstick smudges is the wrong benefit!  Females taking part in sports or clubbing – the firm’s targeted occasions – are not going to care about their lipstick.

The last issue with ‘Rockstar Pink’ is common to all product line filling decisions:  cannibalisation.  This is when the launch of a new product simply replaces the sales of existing products with the new products.  If you take a look at the Rockstar product line, there are at least three products that could witness a decline in sales as females shift to ‘Rockstar Pink’: ‘Sugar Free’, ‘Zero Carb and ‘Roasted Light Vanilla’.  And we are assuming here that the product is successful, which I am highly sceptical of.  Moreover, their already extensive product range makes failure even more likely.  This is because they essentially already have products that offer the same benefits that the new drink offers; they even come in smaller sizes than ‘Pink’s’ standard 12oz can.

It seems to me as if AG Barr have broken a fundamental rule of branding.  Namely, they being too broad in defining who their core customer is.  This results in a product that appeals to no one for using during no particular occasion.  In such a mature and competitive market, there is a right time and reason for each product; by trying to be the right product for several occasions and reasons you always end up being second-best.

© Joshua Blatchford, author of Manifested Marketing 30/05/2011


I also want to mention that the official domain for the blog is now

Coca-Cola – Repositioning

Coca-Cola have recently launched a new advertisement that will air each Saturday evening on ITV.  The aim of the latest marketing campaign is to reposition the Coca-Cola brand as a meal-time accompaniment: their key message emphasised is “meals taste better with Coca-Cola”, which will be featured in the majority of their marketing material.  Where as, the television advertisements will feature the lines “Saturday night tastes better with Coca-Cola and ITV1”.

This is evidence of behavioural segmentation, based on occasion.  This is when a large market, such as for Cola, is broken down into sub-sections according to when the product is used or purchased; in this case, Coca-Cola want consumers to associate meal-times with the drink to build up product consumption, and thus sales.   Hence, this is a market penetration strategy.

This is a very simple and clever move.  It is a relatively low-risk approach to generating sales: effectively encouraging consumers to purchase more of the product – as meal times require large quantities of drink – it is an efficient way to boost sales.  This is because it is unnecessary to completely re-brand the drink, which is costly and can go disastrously wrong. With Coca-Cola, however, the combination of a long-term differentiation strategy and a strong corporate brand make this unnecessary.

Although repositioning strategies often only generate short-term sales, this approach may be an exception to the rule; the tie-in with ITV, who have recently began airing ‘Britain’s Got Talent Again’, is likely to generate long-term loyalty.  This is because their occasional segmentation, which has identified families as a target market, may encourage weekly usage: families get together each Saturday with a meal and enjoy T.V. in the evening with one-another.

This seems very 1950s-60s to me – families sitting down together, and enjoying each other’s company.  Perhaps Coca-Cola is alluding to the brand’s traditional connotations?  This is likely to be the case given the company’s recent 125th anniversary.  One could even go as far to say that the company is using the stereotypical, happy 1960s family as an aspirational group for mothers: if mothers want the perfect family, the thoughts of family meals enter their heads first and then closely followed by Coca-Cola.

Ultimately, this is a very simple strategy.  But if you look at it closely, it is psychologically very, very powerful.  There is a snatch, however.  Just how true is it that families sit-down together for meals in a modern society?  Moreover, is it necessarily the mother who will make the purchase decision?  Another issue to consider would be the health issues: as fast-food places always offer discounts on fizzy drinks along with meals and, consequently, Coca-Cola could become more associated with takeaways than traditional meals?  But, then again, this would still increase product consumption…

© Joshua Blatchford, author of Manifested Marketing, 13/06/2011

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